‘For most of human history, sudden and unexpected deaths of a suspicious nature, when they were investigated at all, were examined by lay persons without any formal training. People often got away with murder. Modern forensic investigation originates with Frances Glessner Lee – a pivotal figure in police science.’
18 Tiny Deaths is the remarkable story of how one woman changed the face of murder investigation forever.
Born in 1878, Frances Glessner Lee’s world was set to be confined to the domestic sphere. She was never expected to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity. Yet she was to become known as ‘the mother of forensic science’.
This is her story.
Frances Glessner Lee’s mission was simple: she wanted to train detectives to ‘convict the guilty, clear the innocent and find the truth in a nutshell’. This was a time of widespread corruption, amateur sleuthing and bungled cases. With the help of her friend, the pioneering medical examiner George Magrath, Frances set out to revolutionise police investigation.
Her relentless pursuit of justice led her to create ‘The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’, a series of dollhouse-sized crime scene dioramas depicting actual cases in exquisitely minute detail that Lee used to teach homicide investigators.
They were first used in homicide seminars at Harvard Medical School in the 1930s, and then became part of the longest running and still the highest regarded police training seminar in America.
Celebrated the world over by scientists, artists and miniaturists, these macabre scenes helped to establish her legendary reputation as ‘the mother of modern forensics’, influencing people the world over, including Scotland Yard.
Frances wanted justice for all. She became instrumental in elevating murder investigation to a scientific discipline.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF FRANCES GLESSNER LEE & THE INVENTION OF MODERN FORENSICS
INCLUDING 16 PAGES OF COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OUT 2 APRIL
18 Tiny Deaths is the story of Frances Glassner Lee, Captain Lee as she preferred.
Born to a wealthy family in 1878, she showed an interest in medicine from an early age. She also had an interest in dolls houses, which would come in useful later in life.
She was an amazing, strong and determined woman and certainly not content with the usual domestic life of women at that time.
Captain Lee became pivotal in forensic science and used her dioramas of crime scenes to teach others. These dioramas were exact replicas of actual crime scenes, from wallpaper, carpets, plates and even blood spatter. They were used extensively as training aids and are still exhibited today. They have also influenced TV shows such as CSI, in the Miniature Killer episodes, which uses crime scene dioramas very similar to Captain Lee’s.
I found this to be a well written and totally fascinating insight into a relatively unknown exponent of forensic science. An incredible and compelling read.
Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour, for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bruce Goldfarb is the executive assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, US, where the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are housed. He gives conducted tours of the facility and is also a trained forensic investigator. He began his career as a paramedic before working as a journalist, reporting on medicine, science and health.
He collaborated with Susan Marks – the documentary filmmaker who produced the 2012 film about Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshells titled Of Dolls and Murder.